Is There Any Common Humanity Left For The Old?

From Dr Martin Schurr

“England has now entered a third national  lockdown, and as the economic consequences of the Covid pandemic grow ever more serious, a pernicious argument is gaining ground. On the face of it, its proponents are simply questioning whether the vaccination drive now under way across the country should be designed to prevent mortality or to arrest the wider transmission of the disease. But it has a sinister subtext: one that pitches the value of the young and of society’s wealth creators against the ‘unproductive’ elderly and physically and mentally vulnerable.

“Put bluntly, there are those who believe, even if they are coy about saying so, that there is no point in vaccinating the elderly as they bide their time in God’s waiting room, blocking hospital beds and clogging up our social care system. Given that they are all going to die soon anyway, say sceptics, why waste scarce resources delaying the inevitable when, by giving the vaccine to people of working age, we can get more of us back to the office, reopen pubs and restaurants, and restore our morale with visits to gyms, hairdressers, beauty salons and eventually theatres and cinemas.

“In short, get life back to normal for those capable of enjoying it to the full as fast as we can. Those who have challenged the decision to make care homes a priority in the vaccination rollout are effectively arguing that the elderly can be kept ‘safe’ in their glorious isolation, albeit unable to hug their grandchildren or see them face to face. If you pause just for one moment to reflect on such a thesis, it quickly becomes obvious how disreputable it is.

“Indeed, it demolishes the heroic human impulses behind our fightback against this wretched virus. What is medicine for, if is not to reduce mortality in the time of a global pandemic? Why have scientists around the globe mounted this monumental effort to find two viable vaccines in implausibly short order if it is not to save life? For the elderly, time is precious, precisely because it is inevitably compressed towards the end. And the truth is that you have to vaccinate thirty 60-year-olds to achieve the same outcome in terms of death rates of vaccinating one 90-year-old, as Covid is so much more deadly among the older age group.

“Already we have inflicted real cruelties on our elderly, not least by inadvertently spreading the virus through care homes nationwide back in the spring in our eagerness to get them out of hospital wards to create space for Covid sufferers. I am extremely alive to the dangers of Covid because I’m 71, but I worry much more about my mother who would probably not survive infection.

“At the age of 91, she still lives in her own home, potters in her garden and is an avid reader. She is convinced she has another ten good years in her, and I would not presume to disagree. I don’t see how we as a society can argue people like my mother should be left to their own devices while ‘wealth generators’ launch the – admittedly much-needed – economic fightback.

“The vaccine debate cannot be reduced to plotting numbers on a graph. It is actually about our common humanity. But not if this comment takes flight…”Old’uns contribute nothing, absorb wealth and aren’t at much risk to others!”. Whereas “Young’uns are drug and wild party addicts, absorb stuff up their collective noses, can’t read “stay at home notices”, and are a burden on the economy”.

And, as another eminent Professor of Oncology Angus Dalgleish

writes “We are meant to have a National Health Service but, increasingly, it is a National Covid Service. This is a disaster, particularly in my field of cancer where early detection can mean the difference between living and dying. 

“We now have the worst of all words: authoritarianism accompanied by amateurism. The sense of national breakdown has been exacerbated by the Government’s lengthening catalogue of spectacular incompetence. 

“It is epitomised by the scandal over the supply of PPE, on which an incredible £15billion has been spent, and the serial failures of the £12billion test and trace regime, presided over by disaster-prone peer Dido Harding, who appears to owe her appointment more to political favouritism than executive competence. 

“It is high time the Government pursued an approach which puts the real public interest before failing dogma”.

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